Gateway: Sports

Varied cast of athletes helps Peninsula High girls tennis excel

Multi-sport athletes are common in high schools across the country. Boys and girls find their way around various sports from the beginning to the end of the school year.

In some cases, an athlete or a set of athletes can be successful in many sports.

The Peninsula High girls tennis team is proof that players who aren’t using tennis as their primary sport can have success and thrive at the varsity level. This season, they finished the South Sound Conference 3A schedule with a 7-0 record and an 11-2 overall record.

It was the first time the program won the league regular season crown since 2001.

“These girls are amazing,” Seahawks coach Cheri Ausboe said. ”They’re playing in other sports and they’re in school plays and have other activities. They’re also competitive; these girls do not want to lose. It’s not just going out there and having fun, these girls want to go out there and win.”

The No. 1 and No. 2 doubles and singles teams are a collective 34-3 in matches. Having players as dual sport athletes has made life easy for the coaching staff, a staff that includes former college tennis players Ian Skidmore, who played at the University of Kentucky; Brett Mayer, who played tennis at PLU; and Ausboe, who played at UPS. It can be a daunting task dealing with 40 players on both the varsity and junior varsity.

“They’re coachable, and not all players are coachable.” Ausboe said. “They’re natural athletes and they’re just naturally focused. We really haven’t had to train them on that, but we do remind them on things like adjusting their feet or making a few adjustments and that helps them come out with the win. Even if they’re down, they find a way to come out with a win.”

The varsity squad is led by junior Stirling Sites, who is 11-0 in singles play and has been taken to three sets just twice. Having grown up in Gig Harbor, Sites rejoined the team in the summer of 2018 after living in Texas for 3 ½ years. As a member of the volleyball team she helped the Seahawks finish with a 10-4 record in the conference and 13-7 record overall.

In a singles match against North Thurston’s Brooklyn Marn, Sites was in a rare three-set affair and after going down 6-7 in the first set. She responded by winning the final two sets, 7-6 and 6-0.

“We have a very competitive mindset and we go out there and try hard every time,” Sites said.

While there is a cool, calm and focused approach on the single side, the doubles team of Lena Janson and Somer Mayer pack a punch that kept the Seahawks leading the SSC race from start to finish. Nicknamed “fire and ice” by Ausboe, the duo has a record of 9-1. In 21 sets this season, they’ve only surrendered four of them.

The duo is also fascinating because it matches Janson, an energetic junior who has been playing tennis since her freshman year and is more of a soccer player, with the reserved Mayer, who has been playing since she was four-years-old.

Janson and Mayer were paired up a third of the way through the 2018 season and haven’t been separated since.

“I really can’t explain it. We play so well together and it’s awesome to play with younger talent,” Janson said. “(Mayer) is a tennis prodigy.”

Whether it be a pre-match routine or in match adjustments, the chemistry and competitive fire of the duo stands out once they both get on the court.

“We make a goal, if it’s best two out of three then we’re going to win this in two sets,” Janson said. “We make a goal of it. If they get one then they get one, that’s our mentality. We move on and every time we just say next point, next point.”

Next up for the Seahawks is the 2019 SSC tournament taking place at Timberline High School on May 10-11.

Hello, I’m Andrew Hammond, and I am new to the Pacific Northwest area. I’ve been a journalist for 13 years, mainly covering sports in the state of Kansas, where I am from. I’m excited to be a part of the Pacific Northwest sports scene. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @ahammTNT